Flashback: Sugar Ray Robinson Profiled – Part 2
By John F. McKenna (McJack): Finally in December of 1946 Robinson won the vacant Welterweight title with a unanimous decision over Tommy Bell. On June 25, 1947 he was scheduled to fight Jimmy Doyle. Prior to the fight Robinson had a dream that Doyle would die from injuries that he sustained in the fight. Sugar Ray was so unnerved by the dream that he chose to back out of the fight.
Robinson’s handlers brought in a priest and minister to speak with him about the dream and they prevailed upon him to go ahead with the fight. In the actual fight Robinson scored a decisive eight round KO. Doyle succumbed to brain related injuries that night, which troubled him greatly. Ray fought in a series of fights to benefit the Doyle family. A coroner investigating Doyle’s death asked Robinson if he had figured on getting Doyle “in trouble”, to which he uttered this famous quote “Mister, it’s my business to get people in trouble.” Ray’s performance in the ring was not affected by the tragedy. He continued winning and knocking people ount. On July 11, 1949 Sugar Ray defeated future hall of famer Kid Gavilan in a controversial decision. In 1950 Robinson fought an incredible 19 times.
Eventually Robinson would move up to the middleweight division due to the increasing difficulty in making the weight at welterweight. He fought his old nemesis Jake Lamotta, for the 6th time on February 14, 1951 for the Middleweight Championship. Sugar Ray announced his strategy for winning the fight ahead of time. “I’m going to run for ten rounds and then I’m going to get that man!” Robinson told the press. He was true to his word. Ray would punish the incoming “Bronx Bull” for ten rounds, pummeling him with double and triple left hooks while Lamotta bore in. The movie “Raging Bull” accurately depicted Jake’s toughness in refusing to go down. After the 10th round, Robinson turned up the heat. It was reminiscent of Frazier and Ali in the “Thrilla in Manilla” with the matador repeatedly jabbing the sword into the incoming bull. Sugar Ray dealt Jake his first TKO loss, with the referee stopping the bout in the 13th round.
Although Jake did not go down, he stood in his corner in a fog, unable to defend himself, absorbing upwards of 160 punches without a return. Although Jake did not go down, as was dramatically depicted in the film, there was no question that Robinson was the far superior fighter. The fight would forever be known as the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”. Many years later, after Lamotta had retired, he began a stand up comedy routine. In a weak attempt at humor Jake would use the line “I fought Sugar Ray so often I caught sugar diabetes”. Not very funny, but because he was Jake Lamotta, he got some laughs.
After his TKO of Lamotta Robinson went on a much heralded European tour which included his “entourage” which included his personal valet, a masseuse, a barber, a dwarf who served as a mascot in addition to several beautiful women and his manager George Gainford. The term “entourage” came about while Sugar Ray was on his European tour when one of the French stewards referred to his friends as his “entourage”. The word stuck. He was even more popular in Europe than he was in America. Ray was especially popular in France where the people adored him and crowds followed him wherever he went. At a meeting held for Robinson by the president of France and attended by the French upper crust, Ray kissed the president’s blushing wife on both cheeks. He had the French people eating out of his hand and he knew it. It seemed that he could do no wrong. Ray was at the very peak of his popularity and he played the part well. He had charisma in spades and personified the word cool. Ray was photogenic, had processed hair, was graceful in an athletic way both inside and outside the ring and above all, he exuded self confidence.